What’s Wrong With This Picture?

by W.D. Ehrhart

Let me get this straight. The United States military, using our tax dollars of course, has begun air-dropping humanitarian aid packages into Gaza while the Israeli Defense Forces continue to pummel Gaza with bombs and artillery shells paid for with U.S. money—our tax dollars again—provided to the Israeli government. So the U.S. is concerned about civilian suffering in Gaza, but has so far vetoed United Nations ceasefire resolutions three times?

Does this seem strange to anyone other than me? No, not strange. Cockamamie. Schizophrenic. Stark raving nutso. It’s like one of those kindergarten picture puzzles where there’s a fish in a tree and bird in a pond, and the five-year-old is supposed to circle what’s out of place, and maybe earn a gold star for finding all the mistakes.

Look, I know that what Hamas did on October 7th was barbaric, inhuman, unjustifiable, beyond the pale. Exact numbers vary, but Hamas killed somewhere around 1150 people, and took about 240 hostages, many of whom are still being held. One cannot and should not minimize the suffering of the many wounded and dead, or that of the hostages, and all of their families and loved ones.

But—sorry, folks, but there is a but—since October 7th, the Netanyahu government and the IDF have killed 30,000 Palestinians, injured another 70,000 with thousands more missing and presumed dead, and displaced nearly 2,000,000 (some 85 percent of the population of Gaza).

Talk about what’s wrong with this picture. These figures don’t represent self-defense. This is retribution. This is revenge, plain and simple. This is the inflicting of destruction and human misery on a colossal scale, far out of proportion to the unforgivable actions that have triggered it. There can be no more justification for this degree of violence against a largely innocent civilian population than there was for what Hamas perpetrated against innocent civilians on October 7th.

Moreover, if Netanyahu and the Israeli government think they will put an end to Hamas once and for all, they are completely out of their senses. Unless they can manage to kill every last Palestinian in the world, which is not possible, there will surely and inevitably be men and women and children who will crawl out from under the rubble of their bombed-out homes and cities, bury and mourn their dead, and swear vengeance on the people and the government that did this to them and those they loved.

This is absolutely guaranteed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a historian to understand that this is the perfectly predictable human reaction to injustice. It is worth remembering that Hamas did not even exist before the first Palestinian Intifada. Before Hamas, there was the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And if Hamas somehow doesn’t survive the current Israeli onslaught, there will simply be another organization with another name.

A few weeks ago, I participated with several hundred other people in a silent march calling for a ceasefire in Gaza sponsored by the American Friends of Combatants for Peace, an organization of former Israeli and Palestinian fighters whose basic premise is that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are going to relinquish their claims to this land, and therefore the only solution to avoid perpetual war is to learn to live together.

I had learned of the march while attending a presentation by representatives of Combatants for Peace that took place at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, and clearly quite a few of the marchers were themselves Jewish, and very much supporters of Israel. Yet they are horrified by what the Israeli government is doing in Gaza, and are calling for an end to the violence. A ceasefire.

Which brings me back to where I began: the completely contradictory response to all this by the U.S. government. “Let’s give the Palestinians humanitarian aid while continuing to underwrite their destruction.” It’s kind of like the proverbial “kiss and slap,” but with consequences far beyond that of a puzzled suitor. Indeed, the consequences of the U.S. response are global.

While world response to the Hamas barbarity was almost uniformly in sympathy with Israel, the ongoing slaughter by the IDF has turned that initial response on its head. No one except the fanatical fringe supports Hamas, but most of the nations of the world have lost sympathy for Israel after months of merciless destruction.

Meanwhile, whatever the Biden Administration thinks it is accomplishing by sending humanitarian aid to Gaza while sending bombs and shells to Israel, such a schizophrenic policy is only alienating a large portion of the U.S. electorate, which is not a smart thing to do with another presidential election in the offing and Donald Trump and his MAGAsters astoundingly viable in spite of all he has foisted on the American people over the past decade and more.

I personally don’t know of anyone who is likely to vote for Dolt .45 (aka: the Trumpster) because of Biden’s inability to bring himself to tell Netanyahu, “Enough. Stop this now,” which he could do if he had the backbone for it.

But I do know people who have decided they cannot vote for Biden at least in part because of his irreconcilable approach to Israel and Gaza. They will simply not vote at all. Consider, for instance, what happened in the Michigan primary, a state with a significant number of Muslim voters. Thousands of Democrats marked their ballots “uncommitted” in a crucial swing state that Biden barely won in 2020. And now the same thing has happened in Minnesota.

So if you think what is happening to Palestinians in Gaza doesn’t have an impact on you, you can stuff that opinion into the same trash bin with Netanyahu’s notion that he can put an end to Hamas.

But what can you do? Well, it may sound a bit corny, but you can write letters, send e-mails, and make phone calls to your elected representatives in the House, the Senate, and even the White House. Let them know you support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. If you are writing to a Democrat, let that person know your support for Biden is wavering because of this issue. Believe it or not, politicians do take note of such communications, and even if they respond with stupid boilerplate letters that say nothing worth reading, they do keep track of opinion trends.

Help Uncle Joe circle the correct misplaced objects in his kindergarten picture puzzle. Help him earn a gold star.

W. D. Ehrhart is a retired Master Teacher of History & English, and author of a Vietnam War memoir trilogy published by McFarland.

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